Really? State Officials Are Not Permitted to Enforce Federal Laws?
Suppose a RI trooper is patrolling I-95 and he stops a motorist for speeding. As he approaches the offender’s vehicle he sees a set of engraving plates for U.S. $100 bills sitting on the passenger seat. Does our hero a) detain the motorist and notify the Secret Service or b) consult his copy of the constitution and, realizing that punishing counterfeiting is a federal responsibility, issue a speeding ticket and send the motorist on his way?
In that vein, Adam J. White at the Weekly Standard hones in on the precedent that may prove to be a stumbling block for the plaintiff in the matter of The United States of America vs The State of Arizona.
The administration’s primary obstacle is De Canas v. Bica (1976), in which the Supreme Court emphatically declared that federal immigration laws did not prohibit the states from enforcing the policies embodied by those federal immigration laws. (In that case, the state law was a California prohibition against the employment of illegal aliens.) The Court reviewed the text and history of the federal Immigration and Nationality Act, and found no indication that “Congress intended to preclude even harmonious state regulation touching on aliens in general, or the employment of illegal aliens in particular.” According to the Court, states may enforce laws consistent with federal immigration laws, so long as the state does not “impose additional burdens not contemplated by Congress.”